CURRENT: Small Black – “Boys Life”

I first discovered Small Black through Nicolas Jaar’s Other People imprint, which oversaw the release of Dave Harrington’s remix of the Small Black/Frankie Rose collaboration “Lines of Latitude.” That lush, wispy remix still sounds like a breath of fresh air, and on their latest, “Boys Life,” the group takes essential qualities from that remix and shifts them to fit this track.

“Boys Life” came about after lead singer Josh Kolenik surveyed the damage wreaked by Hurricane Sandy at his father’s home and discovered old photographs taken by/of his father. “Pictures of you / picturing you,” Kolenik wistfully sings as synths glitter behind him. Like the past, Small Black’s music has always lived in a rose-tinted yet unattainable setting. With “Boys Life,” though, we get the best proof yet that the past is present.

Best Blues is out October 16 through Jagjaguwar. “Boys Life” premieres today via T Magazine.

UPDATE “Boys Life” is now available to stream via Soundcloud and Spotify.


CURRENT: Lianne La Havas – “Green & Gold”

“It seems that I’m where I’m supposed to be,” sings Lianne La Havas on her third prerelease single from Blood, out July 31 via Warner Bros.. Yet “Green & Gold” is not a victory lap; she isn’t running in circles, she’s swimming freestyle. There’s a fluidity to everything here, from the way the beat rolls in, to her hushed confessions in the first verse. “Trying to watch cartoons through the static,” she vividly remembers, “thinking where I’m gonna be if I’m ever 23.” It’s her ability to express the chasm between youthful playfulness and real-world concerns that devastates and illuminates.

CURRENT: Kurt Vile – “Pretty Pimpin”

When I first began writing this blog, Kurt Vile was readying the release of one of the 2013’s best albums, Wakin on a Pretty Daze. Now, he’s returning two and a half years later with the hotly anticipated b’lieve i’m goin down. The new set is led by the recently released “Pretty Pimpin”, which finds the one time War On Drugs-affiliate as twangy as ever before. But look past the banjos and the country inflections to his vocals, and “Pimpin” is quintessential Vile. He hasn’t become known as one of the best guitarists this decade by accident. While he’s hardly showy, Vile’s consistent, hypnotic playing pulls listeners in as he burrows his way deep into the track. “I didn’t recognize the man in the mirror,” he sings at the beginning of the song. And for the rest of the track, we gladly follow Kurt Vile as he attempts to find himself, hidden underneath an intense cloud of smoke.

CURRENT: Protomartyr – “Why Does It Shake?”

“Why does it shake? The body, the body, the body,” intones Joe Casey on Protomartyr’s first single from the forthcoming The Agent Intellect. It’s entirely rhetorical, the titular question he asks. The band does what they can to rattle some truths out of the questions they provoke, using their post-punk influences to devastating results. Why does it shake? Out of fear. Excitement. Joy. Sadness. It’s a primal reaction, something Protomartyr is able to convey with astonishing ease.

CURRENT: Empress Of – “Kitty Kat”

On Me first single “Kitty Kat,” Empress Of toys with interesting juxtapositions. There’s the industrial-strength beat that opens the track, sounding like the aural equivalent of the steam-punk aesthetic, while Empress Of’s vocals shine like a canary in a cage. “Let me walk away,” she asserts time and time again. Despite her assertions, she’s not denouncing where she’s coming from; only celebrating the freedom in choosing where to go.

Me is the debut album from Empress Of, and is due out September 11 via Terrible Records.

CURRENT: Lana Del Rey – “Honeymoon”

What Lana Del Rey has accomplished in music is pretty impressive. For an artist with only one radio hit to her name, the Cedric Gervais remix of “Summertime Sadness”, Del Rey has become one of the better album selling artists in the 2010s. Following last year’s turn towards rock ‘n roll on Ultraviolence, LDR slows things down to a snail’s pace on the first teaser from her forthcoming Honeymoon LP, the album’s title track. Much like previous showstopper “Video Games,” “Honeymoon” works in ways it shouldn’t. One of Del Rey’s best qualities is her ability to weave her way into a melody, all fronted by lyrics that showcase her singularity as an artist. Oftentimes audiences crave for an artist to experiment with their sound, to take unforeseen risks with their music. “Honeymoon” finds Lana Del Rey very much operating within the lane she helped construct. Who says you can’t grow by staying the same?